Indiana, Penn State hope to overcome backfield injuries
Who: Indiana vs. Penn State
When: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET
Where: Beaver Stadium, Penn State
Matchup to watch: Indiana O-Line vs. Penn State D-Line
If you’ve paid attention to the B1G in the last two years, you know how good — and underrated — these units are. The Hoosiers don’t allow sacks and they pave the way for tailbacks to be successful, regardless of who’s in the backfield. The Lions, on the other hand, blow up backfields better than all but three teams in the country. Carl Nassib’s emergence coupled with the experienced Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel will be as tough of a challenge — if not tougher — than what the Hoosiers dealt with against Ohio State last week. In a week where IU has a couple of banged up skill players to protect in Jordan Howard and Nate Sudfeld, protection against an elite line will be even more important.
Thing I’m excited to see: IU’s response after Ohio State
Everybody wants to look at last week’s game and determine whether or not it’s a launching point for IU. It could be. The impact of pushing the No. 1 team to the brink can give a program confidence it didn’t otherwise have. The Hoosiers could build off that experience by executing better down the stretch. Still, there’s no guarantee of that. There’s also no guarantee that a win last week would result in IU getting over the hump and pulling out a win at Beaver Stadium. For what it’s worth, the Hoosiers have never won there. Even better, they haven’t won a B1G road game in nearly three years. That didn’t change with some moral victory against the Buckeyes. If IU wants to get out of the B1G basement, it has to come out firing in a game with just as much significance as last week.
Number to remember: 71
That’s how many yards Penn State held Tevin Coleman to last year. It was the only time all season in which Coleman, who finished second in the nation with over 2,000 rushing yards, didn’t eclipse the 100-yard mark. The Army game might’ve diluted how good the Lions have been stopping the run overall this year. Jason Cabinda emerged last week for a defense that is capable of bottling up Howard if he isn’t at 100 percent. The Hoosiers have’t faced any team that could consistently stop the run and force them into long third downs. If at all possible, IU would like to avoid exposing Sudfeld on those key situations.
Prediction: Penn State 17, Indiana 14
Both teams have key skill players banged up. It’s tough to know if they’ll even play and if they do, how effective they can be. The early indication is that Saquon Barkley and Akeel Lynch won’t be active for this one. If that’s the case, Christian Hackenberg will be asked to provide a bigger lift than last year’s 12-of-29, two-interception effort against the Hoosiers. If Howard and Sudfeld were going to be at full strength, this one could have a different feel. I think Penn State gets a defensive touchdown that pushes them ahead, and ultimately, keeps IU’s three-year B1G road losing streak alive.